Border Crossing into Ethiopia
It took us two hours to drive from our bush camp to the Ethiopian border in Metemma. The whole border crossing procedure lasted another two hours which is quite quick for an African border. I exchanged my remaining Sudanese Pounds (SDP) against Ethiopian Birr at a rate of 1 SDP to 4 Birr. This rate is significantly worse than the official rate I looked up in the internet of 1 SDP to 6 Birr. However, I only had SDP in the equivalent of 30 US dollar so that I didn’t really care. Some other people tried to change their Sudanese Pounds on the Ethiopian side of the border and only got offered 3 Birr for 1 SDP.
The Ethiopian immigration office was from a technological perspective the best equipped one I seen in Africa so far. They even took our photos and fingerprints, a procedure which was to my knowledge first introduced at the US border. Ellen, whose passport was fallen into a hot spring in Egypt, had slight problems since the chip in her passport didn’t work and so the immigration officer stated this passport might be fake and not valid. However, after she explained the situation they let her pass and entered the passport data manually.
On the first impression the world in Ethiopia looks very much different than in Sudan. The landscape became greener, the temperature dropped since we gained significant altitude and the colour of the houses and products for sale became brighter. It took us until 4pm to drive to Gondar since our truck is quite slow when driving up a mountain. Gondar is the largest city behind the border and once used to be the capital. We stayed at the Goha Hotel which is very nice since it is situated on a mountain overlooking the city.
Compared to Sudan, Gondar is quite chilly. The altimeter in my watch displayed an altitude of 2,250 meter. The temperature dropped from 38 to 26 degree and although this is still quite warm it let you freeze when coming from the extreme heat. It might sound strange but we got out long-sleeved cloth out… It was even hailing in the afternoon so we considered our warm cloth appropriate.
When trying to check into the hotel we discovered that our reserved rooms were gone. The reason is that two of the eight new people joining us in Gondar showed up before we arrived and the guy at the reception thought that our group size has dropped from twelve plus eight new people to only two and gave our rooms to other travellers. After a lengthy discussion we ended up with three rooms in the hotel and some people, luckily not including myself, had to move to a guesthouse nearby.
After we had to be abstinent from any kind of alcohol in Sudan we spent the remaining evening socializing and drinking. I had some Ethiopian wine with an interesting taste, quite similar to the local wine I tasted in Egypt.